NORTON, Ohio — They say home is where the heart is. For 17-year-old Emma Pfouts, home has been at Akron Children's Hospital since last October after she suffered a severe asthma attack at her Norton High School homecoming dance and collapsed.
“Yeah, she's still at the hospital. She's still progressing really well in therapy,” Emma's mom, Christina Weigand shared of her recovery status.
Weigand often uses the word "Em-mazing" to describe her daughter's progress.
“Her speech is coming along. She's really doing well with it. She's, you know, more understandable. She's just getting more and more of the (sic) annunciations and stuff,” Weigand said.
In her home at the hospital, Emma has celebrated her 17th birthday, enjoyed spa days and is surrounded with signs of support on her walls.
Now, as coronavirus cases are on the rise across the country, her family is torn on where Emma should be.
“It's devastating to know, we've been so far and then to have something like this and worry like this," Weigand said. “We were getting ready to bring her home. And now it's kind of, you know, you struggle a lot saying, 'Do we bring her home?' and, and worry that, you know, if she comes home and she, she gets this virus and she has to go back in the hospital, is there going to be a hospital bed available for her? Or do you leave her there in the hospital?”
There's also this concern:
"We just learned recently this coronavirus causes ARDS, acute respiratory distress syndrome. That's what Emma had day seven. And, so we know that she barely made it through that. So we know this is, you know, a really big deal."
But, working behind the scenes, is an army of selfless volunteers, who are getting Emma's family home ready for her return.
"We live in a split-level home, so we're not able to, you know, use like a chair left or anything like that. So we had to build an addition on the back side of our house. And so, the addition is Emma's room, and it has a ramp that goes up to a chair lift and then that will lift up to the to a deck, which leads into the door of her room and it's a wheelchair accessible bathroom and bedroom,” Weigand described.
Builders, plumbers, electricians, are donating their time and supplies. They are working after their shifts. Some, trudging through the muddy waters left from heavy rains.
"Everybody is suffering right now," Weigand said. "Everybody has their struggles and whatnot. And for people to step up and come help us, I mean, we are so grateful and so appreciative of that. I mean, it is amazing how much these people have helped us out and continue to still come even in these types of times."
These times? Uncertain. We're all wondering where we'll be in the next few months, but no one feels that more than Emma's family.
"It's a big decision and you know, as a parent, you want to make sure that you make the right decision and you want to make sure that, you know, it's the decision that's going to be best for her because I don't want, I don't want to regret anything."
Yet, no matter where Emma's home is, her heart is everywhere: In the hospital, in the community and in the volunteers who show up everyday to bring her back where she belongs.
"They're literally living angels among us because they are amazing that they still come back here. They still help us out," Weigand said. “We are so blessed. We are so grateful. There's not enough words to thank everybody for everything that they've done.”